Beetroot extract and other nitrate rich supplements are gaining popularity in strength and endurance athletes, as dietary nitrates are known to increase nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide is used by the vascular endothelium to trigger relaxation of blood vessels and promote increased blood flow to working muscles. Beyond blood flow benefits, research shows that boosting dietary nitrates prior to training enhances muscle contraction and metabolic efficiency, meaning you can exercise at heightened intensities with less energy cost. However, until recently, we knew little about the effects of long term vs. short term nitrate supplementation on exercise performance.
A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of long-term vs. single dosing of nitrate supplements on skeletal muscle oxygenation and cycling performance in athletic males and females. The authors reported that taking 500 mg of dietary nitrates for 15 days improved cycling time-trial performance, average power output, and average speed— while a single pre-exercise dose failed to elicit any ergogenic effects.
ACTION POINT: The researchers concluded that long-term nitrate supplementation has performance advantages over a single pre-exercise dosing. As such, strength and endurance athletes should take nitrate supplements (like beetroot extract) daily to reap the greatest performance enhancing benefits. Based on this, we recommend taking 500 mg of high nitrate standardized beetroot extract, 30-60 minutes before sports or exercise. On rest days take 500 mg with your morning protein shake or a few minutes prior to breakfast.
Reference: Jo E, Fischer M, Auslander AT, Beigarten A, Daggy B, Hansen K, Kessler L, Osmond A, Wang H, Wes R. The effects of multi-day vs. Single pre-exercise nitrate supplement dosing on simulated cycling time trial performance and skeletal muscle oxygenation. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Apr 18. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001958. [Epub ahead of print]